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Is Science Overlooking Paranormal Phenomena



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Claims of  paranormal manifestation have existed since the human species evolved the cognitive ability to conjure up whimsical notions of mystical magical embodiment. At the same time, humans have employed the scientific method for only 2500 years and through it have discovered the most profound realizations attributable to human intelligence. The question “Is science overlooking paranormal phenomena?” is a pointed one construed by some crafty wordsmith to induce the element of doubt with respect to the scientific method. The simple answer to the question, in a scientific context—and the question title is, after all, listed under the Helium science category— is that the question itself is preposterous. But there is a lot more to it than that.

First of all, read the question again parsing it closely and you may observe the inference that “science” in this case is being treated as some kind of entity. Scientists individually and scientific organizations are indeed entities and as such are fallible, but science, which is no more than a process through which knowledge is obtained and cataloged in the human knowledge collective,  is and must be, authentic and absolute. Indeed, the English language word science is derived from the Latin “sientia,” which in Latin simply means knowledge, and is likely itself a derivative of the antecedent (more ancient) to both, the Greek word “gnosis.” Knowledge is not an entity offering opinion, vivid speculations or conjectural thesis, knowledge, or science as we may refer to it today is the repository of information human intelligence is based on. In more ancient times knowledge was also referred to as “truth.” Scientific truth is a library of factual information that anybody can examine, and presuming they have some degree of edification with respect to a given discipline, will come to the same conclusion that anyone else with comparable or better degree of knowledge in the same discipline will. One need not join some fraternity of scientists or even pursue a college degree in a scientific discipline to take advantage of the scientific method. One need only hone their cognitive skills, to learn, to seek knowledge, to understand myth and reality and know the difference, thereby experiencing the ineffably profound insights the scientific method has to offer.  

The scientific process is based on the development of theories founded on objective impetus not whimsical notions, and testing those theories with evidence to obtain validation, proof or disproof, of the theory. This proof or disproof may be a simple matter of rational induction or empirical evidence derived through experience (experimentation). Sir Isaac Newton’s realization of “gravity” is an example of rational induction while the Atomic bomb represented empirical evidence in support of Einstein's theory of relativity. Today both, gravity and Einstein's relativity, are considered pretty solid facts. Interestingly, the word “paranormal” is itself a word coined by scientists—a scientific term— which referrers to something which falls outside the “normal” status of reality and for lack of immutable evidence can not be sufficiently explained within the theater of scientific scrutiny and rigor. This instance implies “science” or its participants and institutions have already considered paranormal phenomenon to the nth degree and concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to form a scientific conclusion.  It is important to state here, that mere belief, opinion or hearsay are never considered and can never be relied upon as empirical evidence, unless the question in consideration is self evident. In the immortal words of the late Dr. Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Authentication through peer review is a preeminent objective to all practitioners of science. Let’s face it, humans are pretty gullible creatures and just about anyone can get anyone else to “believe” in something, but science is not about belief. Hans Christian Anderson so aptly illustrated the fallacies of belief in his 1837 epic short story “The Emperor's New Clothes, and no reputable scientist is ever going to risk being labeled “unpardonably stupid” for lending credence to a scientifically unfounded claim of paranormal manifestation. In contrast, those so called psychics, ghost hunters and other purveyors of paranormal phenomena are exactly like the “swindlers” in Anderson’s story who mine the insecurity, gullibility and yes, ignorance of an unwary public, and they do so at great monetary profit. Many of these merchants of mythological mystique claim “scientific proof” in support of their claims of paranormal manifestation, but their use of science ultimately and in every case turns out to be pseudo-science not real science. The difference lies in the reliability and repeatability of the evidence or in the case of paranormal phenomenon, the lack there of.

The notion science is overlooking paranormal phenomenon is unquestionably a feebly minded one, and that mind which fashioned it, sufficiently lacking the skill of research associated with the writing discipline. For if the person who formulated the question would have conducted even the most scant of Google queries they would have come across at least one ongoing scientific experiment looking at paranormal phenomena since 1968. That experiment, of course,  is call the “Randi One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge,” and offers 1 million dollars to any person who can show “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” To date, thousands of psychics and other paranormal enthusiasts have attempted the challenge, all have failed. Anyone who has graduated high school knows—or at least should know— that statistically speaking with a sample size of greater than  1000 and such a lopsided result, the evidence at hand is pretty conclusive. Science is not overlooking paranormal phenomenon, based on the available evidence science has rejected the notion as unfounded.     

Generation after generation of humanity have been scammed by those seeking to promote the status of paranormal or supernatural existences, but have yet to demonstrate such existence in any way except to take their word for it and “believe.” When more scholarly scientific types question and refute the unfounded claims of such purveyors of belief, zealous proponents of the usually narrowly held paranormal conviction commonly attack the science or scientists who call into question the absurdity of their claims. It took two hundred years—not to mention countless souls burned at the stake— before the Catholic church brought its own bible based flat-earth geocentric universe doctrine into conformance with the Copernican revelation. Indeed, today creationist continue to attack Darwin’s theory of evolution even though the immutable intrinsic DNA evidence unequivocally validating the theory is available for all to examine, and even challenge if they have some other theory which better explains the now evident 3.5 year chemical metamorphosis of life on Earth. The problem is, believers including those who fancy claims of paranormal phenomenon want to ignore or disregard the scientifically validated evidence and instead cling to whimsical notions of their own design. You can't argue with ignorance.   

Science is not overlooking paranormal phenomena, science is waiting for proponents of paranormal belief to put some evidence on the table science can examine and subject to the rigor and scrutiny upon which scientific facts are founded. Beliefs are fine and everybody including scientists have them, but as mentioned at the outset of this article, science is not about what one believes or wants to believe, but what one can prove.

At the end of The Emperor's New Clothes, as the emperor parades through the town sporting his mystical magical suit invisible to the pardonably stupid, a young lad in the crowd exclaims “But he has nothing on at all!”  “Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child,” said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. “But he has nothing on at all,” cried at last the whole people. It would seem there are multitudes of people ignorant of science and willing to lend their minds, not to speak of their dollars,  to purveyors of paranormal phenomena. The real question is, when will these people hear the immutable voice of wisdom science provides, like that of an innocent child calling out to their better nature of reasonability.

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